Technical prerequisites for the establishment of the tank appeared in the late XIX century - the time were invented caterpillar mover, the internal combustion engine, armor, rapid-fire guns and machine guns. The first steam track-type tractor in the course created as early as 1888 American Beterom. On the eve of the First World War, as already noted, there was an industrial crawler tractor "Holt", which can be considered the direct predecessor of the tank.
But some prerequisites were not enough - lacking basic needs. Only the beginning in 1914. The First World War rigidly defined this need. When the opponents thrown into the millions offensive army, they did not anticipate that the machine guns and guns literally swept away in the coming attack regiments and divisions. Huge losses have forced the soldiers eventually escape into the trenches and dugouts. In the West, the front stiffened and turned into a full line of fortifications that stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss border. The war has reached a dead end so-called position. Exit he tried to find with the help of artillery - Thousands of guns for a few days, or even weeks missiles plowed every inch of the enemy positions. It seemed there was nothing left alive. But as soon as the attacking infantry is chosen from the trenches, the surviving guns and machine guns defending again applied her terrible loss. It was then, on the battlefield and tanks appeared.
The idea to create a combat tracked vehicle capable of travel over rough terrain through the trenches, ditches and barbed wire, first suggested in 1914 by an English Colonel Swinton. After discussion in various instances the War Department as a whole has taken his idea and formulated the basic requirements, which had to meet the combat vehicle. She was supposed to be small, have a crawler, bulletproof armor, to overcome the funnel up to 4 m and barbed wire, reach speeds of no less than 4 km / h, have a gun and two machine guns. The main purpose of the tank was the destruction of barbed wire and suppression of enemy machine guns. Soon firm Foster forty days established on the basis of a caterpillar tractor "Holt" fighting machine, dubbed "Little Willy". His chief designers were Tritton Engineer and Lieutenant Wilson.
"Little Willie" was tested in 1915 and showed good driving performance. In November, the company "Holt" has started production of a new car. The designers faced a difficult challenge without weighing tank, increase the length of 1 m, so that he could overcome the four-meter trenches. In the end it was achieved due to the fact that the circumscription of the caterpillars have given shape of a parallelogram. In addition, it was found that the tank hardly takes vertical embankments and steep elevation. To increase the height of the toe, Wilson and Tritton came up to put a caterpillar on top of the housing. This greatly increased the permeability of the car, but at the same time gave rise to a number of other difficulties related, in particular, with the placement of cannons and machine guns. Armament had spread along the sides, and that the guns could fire at the rate of the side and back of their installed in the side ledges - sponsons. In February 1916 a new tank, called "Big Willie" was successfully held sea trials. He could overcome the wide trenches, move on a plowed field, to move through the walls and the embankment height of 1, 8 m. The trenches 3, 6 m not represent a serious obstacle for him.
The body of the tank is a box-frame from the corners to which bolt-on armor plates were attached. Armour was closed and chassis, which consisted of small unsprung road wheels (shaking in the car was terrible). Inside the "land cruiser" looked like the engine room of a small ship, on which you can walk, do not even ducking. For the driver and commander at the front had a separate cabin. Most of the rest of the space occupied by the engine "Daimler", gearbox and transmission. To start motor 3-4 person teams had to rotate the huge launcher handle until the motor would not start with a deafening roar. On machines placed inside the first brands also fuel tanks. narrow passages remain on both sides of the engine. Ammunition were on top of the shelves between the motor and the roof. On the move in the tank exhaust gases accumulate and gasoline vapors. Ventilation was not provided. Meanwhile, the heat from the engine running was made shortly unbearable - the temperature reached 50 degrees. In addition, for each shot gun tank filled with caustic powder gases. The crew could not long remain in combat areas, ugoral and suffered from overheating. Even in combat tankers occasionally jumped outside to breathe fresh air, not while paying attention to the whistle of bullets and shrapnel. A major shortcoming of the "Big Willy" were narrow tracks, which sank into the soft soil. This heavy tank sat on the ground, stumps and rocks. Poor was the observation and communication - observation slits in the sides did not provide inspection, but the spray of bullets, caught near them in armor, tank hit in the face and eyes. there was no radio communication. For long-distance pigeons were kept for the near - special signal flags. There was no internal intercom.
Tank management required considerable effort and drivers commander (the latter was responsible for the brake right and left side of the tracks). The tank had three transmissions - one primary and one for each side (each of them is controlled by a dedicated transmission). Turning implemented or braking one track, or switching from one airborne transmission to the neutral position, while on the other board include the first or second gear. With stopped caterpillar tank turned around almost on the spot.
The first tanks were used in battle September 15, 1916 near the village of Fleur-Kurslet in the grand battle of the Somme. The advent of the British, which began in July, yielded insignificant results and very significant losses. It was then-Chief of General Haig decided to throw in the battle tanks. In total there were 49, but the starting position came only 32, the rest of the breakdowns were in the rear. The attack involved a total of 18, but in a few hours they advanced with the infantry in the depths of the German positions on the 5 km at the front of the same width. Haig was satisfied - in his opinion, it is a new weapon infantry reduced losses in 20 times against the "norm". He immediately sent a request to London immediately for 1000 combat vehicles.
In subsequent years, the British launched several modifications Mk (such was the official name of "Big Willie"). Each successive model was perfect last. For example, the first serial Tank Mk-1 had a weight of 28 tons, moved at a speed of 4 to 5 km / h, was armed with two guns and three machine guns. Its crew consisted of 8 people. Later MkA tank had a speed of 9, 6 km / h, weight - 18 tons, crew - five men armed - 6 guns. MkC with the weight of 19, 5 tons of a top speed of 13 km / h. The crew of this tank consisted of four people, and weapons - of four machine guns. The latter, created in 1918, floating tank MkI had a rotating turret, a crew of four and armament of three machine guns. Weighing in at 13, 5 tons on land he developed the speed of 43 km / h, and on the water - 5 km / h. Total British produced during the war years 3000 13 tanks of various modifications.
Gradually tanks were adopted and other warring armies. The first French tanks were designed and produced by "Schneider" in October 1916. Outwardly, they bore little resemblance to their English counterparts - the caterpillars did not cover the body, and placed it on the sides or below it. Chassis podressorivalas special springs, which facilitated the work of the crew. However, due to the fact that the upper part of the tank heavily hung over the tracks, cross-country "Schneider" was worse, and they could not even overcome minor vertical barriers.
The best tank of World War I was the "Reno" the FT, released by "Reno" and who had a total weight of 6 tons, a crew of two, weapons - machine gun (a gun 1917), maximum speed - 9, 6 km / h.
«Renault» FT became the prototype of the future of the tank. He first found his permission arrangement of main units, which still remains the classic: engine, transmission, drive wheel - behind the control room - the front, rotating tower - in the center. On the "Reno" for the first time tanks were installed onboard the station, which immediately increased the handling tank formations. The drive wheel of large diameter helps to overcome vertical obstacles and get out of the funnels. The tank had a good cross and was easy to operate. For 15 years he served as a model for many designers. In France itself, "Reno" was in service until the end of the 30s, and it is still produced in 20 countries under license.
The Germans also tried to master the new weapon. Since 1917 the company "Bremervagen" started production of the tank A7V, but their mass production of the Germans have not been able to establish. Their tanks participated in some operations, but in quantities that do not exceed a few dozen cars.
On the contrary, the Entente (ie the actual Britain and France) had about 7,000 tanks by the end of the war. Here armored vehicles have been recognized and firmly entrenched in the weapons system. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister during World War II, said: "The tank was outstanding and amazing innovation in the field of mechanical means of war. This final English answer to the German machine guns and trenches no doubt played an important role in speeding up the Allied victory. " The tanks were used extensively by the British in the fighting. In November 1917, a massive tank attack was carried out for the first time. It was attended by 476 vehicles with the support of six infantry divisions. It was a huge success of the new weapon. Shooting from guns and machine guns, tanks demolished the barbed wire and the move broke the first line of trenches. Just a few hours the British moved into the interior of the front at 9 km, while losing only 4 thousand people. (In the previous British offensive at Ypres, which lasted four months, the British lost 400 thousand people and managed to break into the German defense only 6-10 km). The French, too, several times massively used tanks. So, in July 1918, more than 500 French tanks took part in the Battle of Soissons.